I am sat with my translator Daisy observing a parent and toddler group in the community Vila of Pedreria in Esteiou 10 miles outside of Porto Alegre. This is run by the Primeira Infancia Melhor initiative and it has taken them over a year to get into this area. Marica the educator and supervisor to the play leaders is taking us to the group.
This was once a stone mining community some years ago and it’s something the area holds close as their heritage. However, it does have a reputation with the rest of the city. Even though 90% of the residents are in full time employment in sales or manual work the other 10% are drug traffickers. We are in the local church inside the community and the group runs every week and starts promptly at 10 am. Both Daisy and I have to wear the uniform turquoise T-shirt, so we are recognised. We walk over the rail bridge to get inside.
The children are aged between 3-5 at these groups, but sometimes they are different ages. In one corner there are 10 square carpet tiles in different colours. Today there are two families at first, one more comes halfway through. The children are learning to identify their colours and the play leaders are directing this activity. First the play leaders present the activity to the children and parents together. Then one play leader divides the group by taking the children over to the other side of the room inside a makeshift den made out of a sheet pinned over the end pews in the church. They sit under the canopy and she reads the children stories until they are ready to go back and carry out the activity. Whilst this is happening the parents are explained in basic terms what is to be expected of this activity for them and their children and how this will be applied throughout the week at home.
It’s like an early years setting but the quality of the creative process is measured by the parents and children’s’ engagement. If they turn up and share what they leant the previous week and how they applied it at home then this is classed as a goal being met.
Donna Marie a community leader has joined us with her grandson. She is really happy to see us and is grateful for me to be able to visit the group and the area. She explains how she arrived her when she was 15 years old and the place was not fit in her eyes for anyone to live there. She went to the local council saying more should be done, but she didn’t want any responsibility, so they made her ambassador. She is 70 now, and the area has a sewerage system and cobbled stones, she has helped this happen. One man is mixing cement on the side of the road.
They have to match up the bean bags to the coordinating coloured squares. One boy is struggling to match the bean bags and says he doesn’t know what blue is but he knows it not green!
Then again a new activity is introduced. The play leaders organise different coloured items of clothes, this is to get the children to become independent and help them to make choices.